Twitter challenged: 'So calling for genocide is okay?'

Thursday, July 30, 2020
Steve Jordahl (

TwitterCapitol Hill isn't the only place "Big Social" is on the hot seat. A recent hearing in the Israeli Knesset on anti-Semitism revealed a clear double-standard with Twitter.

At roughly the same time Republicans in the U.S. House were questioning hi-tech CEOs about suspending the accounts of President Donald Trump and his son, Don Jr., Twitter sent one of its European spokespeople to address the Israeli government about flagging tweets from some political leaders as opposed to those of others.

On Wednesday, human rights attorney Arsen Ostrovsky, a member of the Israeli Jewish Congress, asked Twitter's Ylwa Pettersson a pointed question:

Ostrovsky: "You have recently started flagging the tweets of President Trump. Why have you not flagged the tweets of Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei, who has literally called for the genocide of Israel and the Jewish people."

Pettersson responded:

Pettersson: "We have an approach to world leaders that presently say that direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy sabre-rattling on military, economic issues are generally not in violation of our rules."

Another member of the Knesset, Michal Cotler-Wunsh, sought clarification:

Cotler-Wunsh: "I just want to fine-tune the question. Calling for genocide on Twitter is okay, but commenting on political situations in certain countries is not okay?"

The Twitter spokeswoman replied:

Pettersson: "If a world leader violates our rules, but it is a clear interest in keeping that up on the service, we may place it behind a notice that provides some more context about the violation and allows people to click through if they wish to see that type of content."

That, according to Pettersson, is what happened with Trump's tweet:

Pettersson: "That tweet was violating our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line of that tweet and the risk that it could possibly inspire harm and similar actions.

"We decided to keep [the Trump tweet] up, place it behind a notice – put the label on it, as you might say – to limit the interaction with it. Because it is of importance to have it remain so that the citizens can see what their political figures are commenting and hold them accountable for what they're saying online."

To which the Knesset member responded:

Cotler-Wunsh: "I think that what's come up again and again, through different examples, is actually a sense of double-standards – and I would implore Twitter and other online platforms to ensure that that's your responsibility and that you have to be held to account for that, that there is no double-standard in the application [of your rules]."

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